How the U.S. enabled the Caliphate

The following is from Michael Scheuer’s 2008 book,
Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq.
The the comments [in this typeface and the (added) emphasis
are by the author of this blog.

[U.S.] Intelligence officers who had been working
against Sunni extremism since the early 1990s
understood [in the early 2000s] that
the looming Iraq war was

certain to destroy
two of our most important and reliable de facto allies
in that anti-Islamist struggle, Iraq and Syria.

And they were the best kind of allies,
in that Washington did not have to arm, coerce, bribe, or cajole them
into acting in the most murderous manner against most Islamists.
While our purportedly dear and loyal friends
in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates
cared little about what Islamist militants did
in the world beyond the Arabian Peninsula—
letting aid and would-be fighters flow to them,
and funding the education of young Muslims worldwide in the jihadists’ creed—
Saddam’s Iraq and Hafez and then Bashir al-Assad’s Syria
were on a permanent war footing against them.

This is not to say that Saddam and the al-Assads were good guys—far from it.
Yes, it is true that both Baghdad and Damascus
did fund and train some Palestinian terrorists, secular and Islamic,
who then attacked Israel.
And Saddam did make cash payments
to the families of successful Palestinian suicide bombers.
Yes, Syria facilitated the flow of Iranian arms to Lebanese Hezbollah,
which in turn used them to drive the Israel Defense Forces out of southern Lebanon.
And yes, both regimes were willing to allow some Sunni extremists
from groups like al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Gama’at al-Islamiyah,
and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad
to transit their territories, at times in a leisurely fashion.
But what is even truer is that these Syrian and Iraqi actions
primarily were meant to hurt Israel, not the United States,
and that both the Baghdad and Damascus regimes viewed the Islamists
as a significant threat to their hold on power.
Neither state allowed Islamist groups bent on attacking the United States
to establish permanent training camps or safe havens on their territory,

and their security services dealt summarily with
Islamists who overstayed their welcome or
became involved in inappropriate activities while visiting.
Each state tended to deal even more harshly with its domestic Islamist militants.
In short,

Saddam’s Iraq and al-Assad’s Syria
were inherently helping the United States
by standing as very effective bulwarks against
any easy and secure westward movement
of the Sunni jihad’s main base in South Asia
toward the Levant, Israel, and Europe.

Although it is not often mentioned,
Saddam’s Iraq also stood as a bulwark protecting Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula from al-Qaeda insurgents.
One of bin Laden’s worst nightmares has always been
a Turkey that succeeds on its present course:
an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim state with the potential for proving that
Islam is compatible with a semblance of Western democratic institutions.
And of course,
Saudi Arabia and the other oil-producing states on the Arabian Peninsula
have been al-Qaeda’s principal targets
because Riyadh allowed U.S. and Western forces to deploy there starting in 1991
and because Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates
have helped Washington maintain and, as needed, expand
the U.S. military presence in the region since that year.
As long as Saddam ruled Iraq, al-Qaeda and its allies had to content themselves
with infiltrating Turkey from Europe and Iran,
and the Arabian Peninsula through its ports and airports.
Such infiltration could occur only in small numbers,
giving local security regimes a sporting chance to suppress the activity.
Without Saddam’s effective police state,
Islamist infiltration into Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula
stands a far better chance of larger and more regular success.

Thus, after 9/11, as U.S. forces launched the war against al-Qaeda,
Iraq and to a somewhat lesser extent Syria stood in two ways
as extremely important assets for Washington.
In the short term the two countries were unwilling
to host al-Qaeda fighters evacuating Afghanistan,
thereby preventing an even greater westward dispersal than occurred.
In the medium-to-long term,
the existence and strength of the two regimes denied what bin Laden most needed
to expand al-Qaeda’s organizational and paramilitary operations
into the Levant, Turkey, and states of the Arabian Peninsula; that is,
contiguous safe haven.
[As the Viet Cong had in North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in an earlier war.]
Bin Laden and his fighters had learned the insurgent trade
during the Afghan’s jihad against the Soviets.
One of the major lessons bin Laden took from that war was
the vital importance of contiguous safe haven
for the survival, durability, succoring, and growth of the Afghan insurgency.
The ability of the Afghan mujahedin and their Arab allies
to establish facilities in Pakistan for refugees,
to care for their wounded,
and to train, rest, and store weapons and ordinance ensured that
no matter how sever a drubbing they received
at the hands of the Red Army and their Afghan Communist allies,
the insurgents would never face a situation
where they would have to fight to the death.
Relatively safe areas inside Pakistan meant that
Islamist fighters coming from outside South Asia
were often able to relocate their families
in the general vicinity of the war zone and visit them from time to time.
The impression that the Pakistani safe haven made on bin Laden’s thinking is clear.
On several occasions he publicly described
his inability to send a substantial number of fighters to Bosnia
because there was no Pakistan-like entity in the Balkans;
al-Qaeda could not stage out of or escape to Catholic Croatia or Orthodox Serbia.
Likewise, bin Laden has railed against Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon
for refusing to allow non-Palestinian mujahedin
to use their territory as a safe haven from which to attack Israel.
[One can easily see why:
Just imagine how the IDF would deal with
any neighboring state that allowed al-Qaeda to use it
as a base for operations against Israel.]

So even as U.S. and NATO military and intelligence services
continued to pursue and bomb al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the spring of 2003,
bin Laden could see that the pending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
was going to present new opportunities for al-Qaeda and its allies
to project force westward and into the Arabian Peninsula.
After temporarily closing the Afghan window,
Allah was, in effect, preparing to open the Iraqi door.

The Bush[-43] administration’s invasion of Iraq, therefore,
yielded positive consequences for al-Qaeda from its first day,
and while these consequences may have been unintended by Washington,
they could certainly have been predicted.
[As of course they were,
but not by people likely to get the attention of the media/political “elite”.]

Absent the brutal but effective bulwark of Saddam’s regime,
al-Qaeda and the Islamists had an open field for acquiring contiguous safe haven
on the borders of the Levant, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran and with it
the ability to project power toward all points of the compass.
By destroying the regime of
America’s de facto ally in Baghdad
and weakening the helpful regime in Syria,
Washington facilitated
the relocation of the center of the Sunni jihad
from Afghanistan to Iraq,
in the middle of the Arab heartland,
a thousand kilometers westward.
The Bush[-43] administration’s Cold War trait of
preferring to fight and defeat nation-states
immeasurable strengthened
the much more dangerous transnational threat
posed by the Sunni Islamists.


Section 8.1
What is in Pandora’s Box?


The most dangerous aspect of the division between
the domestic focus of Americans and
the international fixation of their elite,
however, lies in the elite’s easy willingness
to sacrifice the lives of the former’s sons and daughters
in wars meant to install freedom and democracy in the Islamic world.
These men and women have consciously made the decision that
they will steadily spend the lives of our children
to bring democracy, women’s rights, parliamentary government, human rights,
and secularism
to those who want no part of any of them in the Westernized form that is offered.
And even if they did want them,
it is no part of the U.S. government’s responsibility or constitutional writ
to spend the lives and treasure of Americans to satisfy the desires of foreigners.

What we are seeing today [in 2008] in Afghanistan
is a perfect example of
the willingness of U.S. leaders to spend the lives of America’s young
for patently unobtainable goals

The U.S. mission in Afghanistan
was to kill Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri,
and as many of their lieutenants, foot soldiers, and Mullah Omar’s Taliban
as possible.
Out mission was strictly military in nature,
accomplishable given the immense power of the U.S. military,
and needing to be done quickly and in a way that would leave behind
enough smoldering physical wreckage and high enough piles of corpses to
  1. make future Afghan regimes think twice about hosting America’s enemies and
  2. leave the clear idea in the minds of all Muslims
    that they can think and say what they will of the United States,
    but the cost of actually killing or helping to kill Americans is horrendous.
[I differ from Dr. Scheuer on this point.
It seems to me that,
while surely al-Qaeda's attack on the U.S. on 9/11 demanded a punitive response,
that that response should be proportional to the harm al-Qaeda caused America.]

This limited and doable task was ever given a thought, however,
as our bipartisan governing elite blithely ignored
the absolute need for a thorough, north-to-south military flaying
of our Islamist enemies in Afghanistan
and instead undertook a project to build an America-like democracy
in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and the deserts of Khandahar.
Instead of our soldiers and Marines fighting, being maimed, and dying
to eliminate the threat to America,
they are doing so to make sure Afghans can vote—
whether they want to or not, or even understand what they are doing—
and so that a defined portion of the Afghan parliament
is reserved for female Afghan parliamentarians.
In other words, the lives of our military-children are being sacrificed
so that U.S. leaders can blat and preen in international conferences
about the pride they take in bringing democracy and freedom
to Afghanistan’s unwashed Muslim masses.
In the era of the all-volunteer military, of course,
precious few U.S. leaders have any children serving in the military.
[I suspect the same holds true for those members of the media
who have been egging on America's foreign wars]

It is at least a point of curiosity to wonder how today’s gold-star mothers
can bear to have lost a son or daughter
to sate the democracy-mongering of the U.S. governing elite.
Knowing, in years past, that a son or daughter perished to help protect America
from the genuine national security threats posed by Nazism, Japanese [aggression], or Bolshevism
would have been difficult enough.
It would take an odd mindset indeed
for any parent to be able to take comfort in knowing their child was killed
so Mrs. Muhammad can vote, vamp, and abort.

Iraq is another case of the U.S. governing elite
embarking on a look-how-great-we-are exercise
designed to bring secular democracy to Muslims,
the blood-and-treasure to be paid, as always,
by Americans whose leaders care not a whit about protecting them or their children.
[I take exception with Dr. Scheuer here.
I think our leaders do care about protecting America and Americans;
the problem is that they care even more about
  1. doing nothing that would interfere with
    Israel’s relentless grab of Palestinian territory and
  2. protecting Israel and its citizens from
    the natural Muslim attempt to retaliate for that land grab.

As noted in [paragraphs 4.1.4 ff.],
Saddam Hussein and Bashir al-Assad
were strong, ruthless, and reliable de facto U.S. allies
in the war against Sunni Islamist militancy.

They were the cork in the bottle’s neck
that prevented the easy westward flow of Islamist fighters from South Asia
to the Levant, Turkey, Europe, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Neither regime needed convincing, arms, or funding from the United States
to resist and persecute the Islamists;
as is almost always the case regimes that are scared to death for their survival—
as were those of Saddam and al-Assad—
make the best allies.
Faced with the chance to use this cost-free bulwark,
the Bush-43 administration and Congress destroyed it
in the name of trying to outdo Woodrow Wilson [28]
[who asked the U.S. Congress to declare war on Germany in April 1917
in order to make "the world safe for democracy"
Unsatisfied with simply annihilating al-Qaeda,
the one foe who could attack in the United States,
the Bush team [egged on by many in the media]
embarked on a second, democracy-crusading mission
that showed them to be ignorant not only of the Muslim world
but of how long it has taken to develop
a functioning, equitable republican society in their own country.

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